Monthly Archives: July 2012

Link

I’m looking at a presidential candidate on the news right now. Mitt Romney is telling Israel what the US will do to support them. Huh? Does a candidate define existing US foreign policy? Here is the cut from the AP this afternoon:  

“Make no mistake, the ayatollahs in Iran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object and who will look the other way,” he said. “We will not look away nor will our country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel.”

He later backed away, more likely his staff backed away from his comments in a written statement, saying the candidate “believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded.” [The Associated Press Published Look again. There is no “I” or “we should” or any wiggle room. He uses the term “our country” Not so fast big guy. While the big donor Sheldon Adelson (who said he will spend any amount of money to see you elected) was in the crowd, this thing isn’t over yet. Meanwhile, when not the president, do not make foreign policy.

 Commentary rang and is still ringing from all corners, The AP, The UK Guardian, NPR and more. And the bloggers well, I’m not keen on linking blogs, but I think SLATE may have hit the nail with their analysis of his UK gaffes:

Romney’s World

Mitt’s insults, mistakes, and blunders abroad aren’t gaffes. They actually represent his true worldview. By Fred Kaplan Posted Friday, July 27, 2012, at 4:21 PM ET

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2012/07/mitt_romney_s_insults_and_mistakes_while_at_the_london_olympics_aren_t_gaffes_as_much_as_a_fair_representation_of_his_worldview_.html

It is well worth reading the whole article but meanwhile, here are a couple paragraphs:

“Charles Krauthammer, the right-wing commentator who usually finds every excuse to attack Barack Obama—he took Obama’s blinking during a tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin as a sign of appeasement—pronounced himself befuddled by the GOP candidate’s flare of incompetence.”

“The American capitalists-turned-statesmen of an earlier generation—Douglas Dillon, Averell Harriman, Robert Lovett, John McCloy, Dean Acheson, Paul Nitze—took risks, built institutions, helped rebuild postwar Europe, befriended their foreign counterparts: in short, they cultivated an internationalist sensibility at their core. Whatever you think of their politics or Cold War policies generally (and there is much to criticize), financiers formed an American political elite in that era because finance (through the Marshall Plan, the World Bank, the IMF, and so forth) was so often the vehicle of American expansionism.”

“By contrast, private-equity firms, such as Bain Capital, where Romney made his fortune, tend to view their client companies as cash cows, susceptible to cookie-cutter formulas from which the firms’ partners reap lavish fees, almost regardless of the outcome. Their ends and means breed an insularity, a sense of entitlement, a disposition to view all the world’s entities through a single prism and to appraise them along a single scale.”

“How Romney should have behaved in London may have been obvious to Charles Krauthammer, who studies politics; it would have been obvious to politically ambitious businessmen from more traditional lines of work or from an earlier era. But as we have been graced to see this week, it is not necessarily obvious to Romney himself.”

Where will we be if the gaffes continue?

Welfare Spending/Reform – Military Reservists and the UCMJ

Last Week the Heritage Foundation Published Welfare, Undermining True Reform, and it’s been reposted by a couple conservatives. Even far right conservative candidates like Mr. Ayers, a Florida transplant running for the US House posted it, referring to “King” Obama and claiming he is circumventing the congress and constitution. This is flat wrong. The article doesn’t stand the rigor of research and the candidate is a military member.

Candidate Darren Ayers is a US Army Reservist, so as I understand technically he can call the Commander in Chief derogatory names, even when the comment is right under his own in uniform photo. Our active duty service men and women cannot as it is considered to undermine good order and discipline. For all of the 24 plus years of my service as an enlisted airman, officer, and five time unit commander I have briefed and been briefed reserves and active duty forces are equals. I cannot conceive after all my military leadership experience how a reserve officer referring to the Commander in Chief in a derogatory way would not undermine good order and discipline but an active member making the same statement would; and they would stand to be prosecuted under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. We are not equals after all.

The article titled Welfare, Undermining true reform by Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. His statements and facts just don’t stand up to the rigor of research. It is easy for special interest groups to throw out a few statements stirring public discord in the political arena, but several points stand out so strongly I am surprised any newspapers reprinted the article. To give them credit however, all I’ve seen placed it under editorials verses news as it masquerades on the Heritage Foundation’s web site. Unfortunately many right wingers treat it as another verse from the gospel.

Mr. Rector’s use of terms “illegal move” and “power grab” in reference to the current administration adjustment to policy is his belief, not fact, and the law is far from “overturned” as indicated in the editorial piece. It is simply a administrative adjustment of which no one has yet to see if there are and what any impacts may be. Meanwhile throwing another log on the fire of political conflict without support, legal finding, or case study is questionable. He works to sway opinion with indications of “liberals” attempts to “fight” the TNAF work requirement, again without reference and ignoring that Welfare Reform (and the TNAF work requirement) was done in 1996 as a cooperative effort between both parties and under another administration (Clinton) argued as too “liberal” by the very same Heritage Foundation. Rather than follow up with legal support for his belief, he attempts to fan the fire with off (legal) topic arguments.

Mr. Rector makes misleading reference to Welfare spending so let’s look at the budget numbers. The 2008 budget (Bush) increased programmed welfare spending by $76 billion in 2008 and another 128 billion in 2009 (Bush), we saw an $89 billion increase in 2010 (Obama), and a reduction of $33 billion in the 2011 (Obama) budgets. It appears Mr. Rector is confused on the federal budget process or more likely attempting to confuse the public in attributing the 2009 increase of 128 billion to the current administration. Considering inflation for 2008/09 was a mere 0.1% and 2.7% percent respectively makes the inflation adjusted increase of the last two Bush budgets the largest in recent history and individually larger than any of the present administration years. In addition his closing numbers on means-tested welfare is of combined federal and state spending, artificially making the numbers higher, and discounting the fact that federal means-tested welfare spending in 2012 appears to be less than that spent in the last year of the Bush (2009) budget.

Throughout the writing, the author make an assumption of a cause and effect relationship between welfare reform and the number of persons on welfare. We all know there have been significant economic swings both up and down in the years between 1996 and today. First we began with a long period of economic growth, fiscal and housing bubbles, and now fiscal contraction, recession, and unemployment. No educated economist or researcher would discount those impacts, nor try and claim just one to be singular cause of the welfare caseload as Mr. Rector implies in his editorial. A person trying to create political malcontent just might.

Political malcontent brings me to my final point. The Heritage Foundation may have a wonderfully wholesome sounding name, but they are an organization with a very political agenda. Its stated mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” They have repeatedly fought accepted research and sound science in support of their conservative causes and big business interest of their contributors. This article is an example of a special interest group being heard just because they have big business funding. It is unfortunate that while we have freedom of speech in this United States, being heard costs so much money.

Link to the Heritage Foundation Article: http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2012/07/undermining-true-welfare-reform

I may not agree with the current administration on many issues, nor do I agree with the challenger. But to espouse beliefs and commentary without facts or presenting facts in a misleading way is irresponsible, further stokes the fires of the malcontent, and impedes our politicians and us from working together to solve some of the issues we face as a democracy. Oh and let’s get our military forces on the same UCMJ… we are after all equals, right?

Balance the Budget? – Depends Who’s Spending!

If Senators cannot vote and fund bills in a way consistent with the very spending limits they claim to hold dear, they should leave, and we need to help them

       19 Senators forfeit credibility in their quest for obstructionist party politics. While you may not be surprised, it is rare any Senator, let alone a long list of them would leave a trail of open misrepresentation and deceit, it will be even more unfortunate if we let them get away with it. In their view, deficits are clearly OK to help big business, unacceptable for keeping the government running and helping Middle Americans.

Anyone coherent last summer was aware of the battle over raising the debt ceiling. The last minute posturing, press releases, public demands, and holding the bill hostage to a Balanced Budget Amendment made headlines daily. The battle caused wild swings in the financial market, lowering of the US debt rating, further polarized our political environment, and in the end costs you and me money. Not only did nothing good come out of the argument, the entire conflict was Boloney. [1]

To get a picture of the deception let’s look at the end of the Bush presidency and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, more commonly known as the Bank Bailout Bill. Submitted at $700 billion the bill didn’t make it out of the House, so the Senate picked it up anyway; passed it as an “amendment” adding roughly another $150 billion making the total cost $850 billion. Two key points: The money went to help big banks including bonuses for many executives who caused the problem; and every penny was deficit spending; yes both the $700 billion of bailout and the $150 billion in unrelated “extras” added by the Senate,  [2]

19 Senators on this list voted for the $850 billion in deficit spending. [3] All 19 then stood with the GOP leadership insisting on a Balanced Budget Amendment as a condition for raising the national debt ceiling. They pushed the government to the brink of shutdown, caused market havoc and lowering of the US debt rating while ignoring their own votes for more debt. All 19 voted again for the Boehner Balanced budget amendment which insisted the budget be balanced through spending cuts, again ignoring their own actions to raise spending, and the national deficit, when it supported big business. [4] But the truth gets worse.

Look back again at the Bush Presidency where the national debt limit began at $5.95 trillion. He promised to pay off that debt in 10 years, but instead raised the limit to $9.815 trillion. Here’s where the GOP leadership stood while the debt limit was raised five times. (data courtesy of ThinkProgress)

June 2002: Congress approves a $450 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $6.4 trillion. McConnell, Boehner, and Cantor vote “yea”, Kyl votes “nay.”

May 2003: Congress approves a $900 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $7.384 trillion. All four approve.

November 2004: Congress approves an $800 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $8.1 trillion. All four approve.

March 2006: Congress approves a $781 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $8.965 trillion. All four approve.

September 2007: Congress approves an $850 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $9.815 trillion. All four approve.

There were no demands to reduce spending as a condition of increasing the debt ceiling. Of perhaps greater interest is that the May 2003 debt limit increase and the $350 billion tax cuts passed on the same day. Certainly gives the appearance of then helping the wealthy, now ignoring Middle America. In the end, these Senators have no credibility. Bending their version of truth with the political wind may have become acceptable to them; it should never be acceptable to America. If Senators cannot vote and fund bills in a way consistent with the very spending limits they claim (to us anyway) to hold dear, they should leave, we need to help them. Remember there were many more involved pushing the country to the brink of default, these are the 19 whose voting record is in direct conflict with their stated position on the debt ceiling. [5]

Here are The 19 and their stated positions while holding the debt limit vote hostage: **

  1. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Alexander has said the debt ceiling vote “should be tied to debt reduction,” spokesman Nick Simpson said (4/20/11)
  2. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.*
  3. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R- Ga.* “While I don’t believe Congress should allow a potentially catastrophic default by the federal government, I do believe that any increase in the debt ceiling must come with policy reforms and assurances that future spending and deficits are being addressed in a meaningful way.” (Chambliss statement via spokeswoman Bronwyn LanceChester (4/21/11).
  4. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.: “I need absolutely certainty that we’ve made the critical changes that are necessary to put this country back where it needs to go. And unless we do that, there’s no way I support it.” (4/17/11, Fox News Sunday.)
  5. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.* Wants spending caps. (4/14/11)
  6. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.: “I am absolutely not going to vote to raise the debt ceiling unless we dramatically change the character of our spending,” Corker said. (4/17/11 speech)
  7. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “I intend to vote against raising the debt ceiling unless we can get some systemic reforms – the kind the president’s own fiscal commission recommended,” (4/3/11, CNN’s “State of the Union.”)
  8. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: “I do believe that the debt ceiling is an opportunity to provide leadership that has been missing in the past, to prevent America from defaulting on the debt, provide leadership now,” (5/1/11, “Fox News Sunday.”)
  9. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: “We’ve got tremendous leverage by not increasing the debt to get a lot of things done that we want done — tackling entitlements and tackling a constitutional amendment requiring a balance budget. I support moving in both of those areas.” (4/5/11)
  10. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. “The [debt ceiling] is the one where we have to see reforms before the debt ceiling is raised or we would be in danger or we would be in danger of having to face this again in another year or two. Which we cannot do.” (4/8/2011)
  11. Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “He has consistently said we can’t increase the debt ceiling without significant spending cuts,” spokeswoman Julia Lawless said.
  12. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.: “There must be a serious commitment to reduce spending before he could consider voting to raise the debt ceiling,” Isakson Deputy Chief of Staff Joan Kirchner said.
  13. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. No. Kyl opposes raising debt ceiling baring some significant deficit cutting action, spokesman Ryan Patmintra said (4/21/11).
  14. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.: (4/13/11, interview) “Senator Lugar wants to see significant spending cuts as part of a debt limit increase deal,” senior advisor Mark Helmke said.
  15. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.*
  16. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “My view is — and I hope this would be the view of every single Senate Republican — is that in order to get my vote for raising the debt ceiling, we would need to do something significant about the debt, and let me define what I would view as significant: something that the markets would view as significant, something the American people would view as significant, something foreign countries would view as significant.”
  17. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska: “Unless the debt limit increase is accompanied by serious efforts to address our ballooning deficits, Sen. Murkowski would vote against a ‘clean’ increase,” spokesman Mike Anderson said.
  18. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. “There has to be a reduction plan of some kind. If we raise the debt ceiling in a vacuum what message is that going to send to the bondholders about whether we are serious about grappling with the long-term debt?” (4/14/11)
  19. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. “He has said all along that this is an opportunity for deficit reduction or budget reform,” spokesman Kyle Downey said. (4/22/11)

** National Journal compiled a “whip list” detailing the stated position of lawmakers on a vote to significantly raise the debt limit without any cuts attached, or on a “clean” vote. The list is based on interviews, statements, other press reports and statements by Senate Republican leaders on the collective views of GOP conference members. Lawmakers’ descriptions of circumstances in which they would back an increase are noted.

*Based on repeated assertions by Senate Republican leaders that the entire GOP conference would oppose increasing the debt ceiling without major spending cuts, all Republicans who did not respond to inquiries or did not express a clear position are counted here as “no” votes. “A serious and credible path forward to reduce spending is the only thing, in my judgment, that will get Republican votes in the Senate to raise the debt ceiling,” McConnell said in April 19 news release.

[1] http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/06/20/248938/franken-debt-ceiling/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_Economic_Stabilization_Act_of_2008

[3] http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/110-2008/s213

[4] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=1&vote=00229

[5] http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/04/14/158424/republican-leaders-debt-limit-hypocrisy/

 

Federal Revenue

At the end of 2011 I was solicited to aid an aquaintence who intended then, and is now running for office in my old home town of St Petersburg Florida. He asked me to validate a comment he made on the  deficit espousing “Current revenues closely reflect revenues in 2007”. So I ran some numbers for him, provided a solid written summary, even povided this graph done in 2005 dollars to account for inflation. His rheteroric didn’t change. Here are the gov numbers, what do you think? What’s a couple hundred Billion, or cumulative Trillion plus among friends anyway? Thankfully, his campaign is doing poorly.

On another note, I certainly didn’t want to start with a political one-liner, but have apparently had a bit of help. I couldn’t help but notice that after offering advertising space, the first add to show on this blog titled americanmoneylies.com; Budget, Finance, Banking, Social –  Big Money Influence of America, was an ad for the Mitt Romney Official Site…”Donate $5 Now”  Sorry folks, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Budget, Finance, Banking, Social – Big Money Influence of America

Domain name reserved, host established, while not “set” the site is functional, so here is a first blog. Not some hot topic of the day but simple words on what I hope to make this blog about and why I’m doing it.  The why is easy for me, likely the how will be more difficult. But you found it, I hope you stick around, invite your friends so we can navigate this road together.

I retired from the working world over four years ago and have time to look at things in more depth than I did in the past. I’ve seen many stories, cartoons, cute quips circulate in the news and social media so often dug for some supporting facts. Not that I am the one to correct the media but as a curious sort, just to see if there actually was any ground truth to some of these statements being passed around by friends and acquaintances. I was appalled. Not just because there is so much unsupported BS being passed about, even more so in this political year, but because checking the truth is so easy. These “statements” as I’ll call them race across the electronic network, the very same network that puts such a wealth of facts and  information at the user’s fingertips. Almost all of the knowledge in the world can be virtually mined right here in a few keystrokes, a few moments, and sources checked to back it up, or not. How many, and how often educated people simply pass the “statement” on without making even the most cursory effort to see if it contains any truth is what I found most appalling.

Over the course of this blog I intend to hit on some of my favorite picks from the past couple months. Hopefully have some fun doing it, bring a few facts to light, challenge some standing knowledge regarding inflation, banking, US money supply, and facts many of us believe we know about the Federal Budget. Maybe I find fun in strange places but after observing several public arguments about US revenue vs spending I took a look and found the entire US budget, both projected and actual available to anyone who is interested. It is fun to jump in when the budget discussion is ongoing, pull the spreadsheet numbers, break it out in whatever context the discussion takes, and provide validating or correcting facts. Well fun to me. Some folks love to learn, some hate it when facts get in the way. An acquaintance running for office was caught red handed making his own facts regarding the Federal revenue/spending numbers. I was “un-friended” of course, but in the end his campaign is going nowhere.

Another area worth exploring is where the message come from. So I’ll look at some wholesome sounding organizations with, often deeply hidden funding sources and their political objectives. Think I’ll call it: “What’s in a Name?” The idea stemmed from a global warming discussion where a shallow dig revealed the organization to be funded by a consortium of big oil and tobacco; More marketing specialists on the Scientific Board than Scientists, and still arguing if smoking causes cancer, whether evolution should be taught in science, and if burning carbon causes heat or gasses trapping said heat. Of course theirs is a political objective, and I will be the first to agree facts can often be used to support differing conclusions. But having facts is what argument is ALL about. It is with those facts we can agree, disagree, discuss, debate, and determine a course of action. Even if that course is to find a few more data points, we are far ahead of those sending bull around the www simply because they believe, and unfortunately know others will fall for the ruse and pass it on and on and on.

I will conclude by saying that I am not without any bias.  I have strong beliefs in human rights, personal freedoms, religious freedoms without government influence or influence within government, and fiscal responsibility. I suppose I could be called a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. But that’s too easy. It’s time to dig in and question some of what we all know to be truths about money, inflation, and the federal budget. The bits I have learned this past year have even challenged a few of my own beliefs.